I remember the first thing that Paulie said to me after we finished the first chapter of My Side of the Mountain, "Well, of course he could survive in the wild with all that stuff he had with him." I chuckled under my breath knowing that despite Paulie's initial lack of awe with this inspiring story, eventually he would come to see the beauty, the creativity of this coming-of-age tale.
There are books you read to your children because they are humorous and you want to share a good laugh. There are books you read to your children because they reach into the depths of humanity and you want to share that bit of the human soul with them. There are books you read to your children because you want them to recognize the infinite possibilities available to them in this world, in this life. My Side of the Mountain is all of those books.
Sam Gribley is a quiet but adventurous kid with a thirst to visit and make a life on his grandfather's land. He leaves NYC with nothing but this wish in his heart. Through a kindly neighbor in the woods and a librarian who feeds him information, he realizes his dream and manages to find an wealth of opportunity in the Catskill Mountains. Living in a hollowed tree with a deerskin door and meals such as fish, mussels, onion soup, turnip soup, smoked venison, Sam finds his footing as a wilderness survivor. With an independent spirit and a peregrine falcon as a companion, Sam lives for a year on his grandfather's mountain in the Catskills.
As a parent who takes her children camping and spends a great deal of time out in nature, I appreciate the fact that Jean Craighead George spared no details in her story. Some children might find her descriptions a bit dry. My kids actually absorbed every word hungrily, and we often had conversations about the details following our family readings. Although this book has clear appeal for the tween/teen boy, my teen daughter and 7-year-old son were equally enthralled.
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